Playforge Combines Zombies and Farm Games on the iPhone

Though they’ve been seeped in to every aspect of social gaming, there is always still room to adapt and change the farming genre. Most of the time such games merely reskin old concepts, but occasionally, they truly take a new perspective. Or that’s what the folks over at The Playforge decided — “forget boring old corn, let’s grow zombies!” And that’s the goal of the company’s Facebook-enabled iPhone app, Zombie Farm.

Okay, okay, it didn’t exactly do away with corn and what-not. Players still have to plant crops to make money. This is all fairly standard as users use the touch screen to plow land, plant crops, and harvest them once they are ready. As you’d expect, users must check back after X amount of time to collect their grown crops lest they wilt and become worthless. Nevertheless, while this is the core and most steady means of income, there are far more interesting things to worry about.

This refers, of course, to growing zombies. Yes, “growing” zombies — and there are as many varieties of them as there are plants. These guys take a bit longer than your average crop to grow, but are well worth it. Well, worth it beyond the concept of actually growing zombies. Evidentially, your digital farming self is also in the business of raising zombie armies, and once you’ve grown at least eight, you can launch an assault on your unsuspecting, non-player neighbors (i.e. Old McDonnell).

Now, Old McDonnell isn’t going down without a fight, he and his farmhands will defend their barn to the best of their ability, trying to kill off your legion of undead. While eight zombies is the minimum to launch and invasion, it tends to be prudent to wait until you have the maximum of 16 before attacking. If your forces are too weak, then you just lost a whole bunch of zombies – something that hurts, considering most take hours, if not days to grow. It can be mitigated a bit by not feeding your zombies, making them more hungry for brains, but that is not always enough. Regardless, should you win the day, the rewards are generous amounts of in-game gold as well as the occasional brain, Zombie Farm’s virtual currency.

In addition to a chance at brains from invasions, users also earn them in a “daily surprise” whose value is determined by how many Zombie Farm friends they have. This is easy enough to enhance, as the application has Facebook Connect built in, and users can easily invite Facebook buddies as well as post their in-game actions to their feed. Unfortunately, unlike other Facebook farming apps, you have yet to be able to do anything with your friends’ farms – even visit them – but it is something the developers have stated that they want to add. Though, while we’re on the subject of adding, it would awesome to be able to invade their farms as well… just a thought.

In another other means of earning brains, besides spending real cash on them through an in-app purchase, players can collect “brain fragments” (with a sizable amount needed to make one full brain) by completing offers or even downloading other free or paid applications advertised within Zombie Farm itself.

The virtual currency, as expected, is hardly necessary, but as a free application, it is obviously how Playforge earns its fiscal keep. Unfortunately, until you reach level 10 and the invasions start to become a bit difficult, it’s not really necessary. However, at that time, the game does tend to prompt you quite a bit to make a purchase in order to make your life easier.

Beyond virtual goods and currency, players are also able to decorate their own virtual farms the way they see fit. Curiously, this is more than just for aesthetic appeal as many decorations improve what is called “Life Force.” Apparently, this stat helps prevent your zombie crops from being, well, duds (for lack of a better term), though that hasn’t happened for us yet. Likely, we’ve just gotten lucky so far. Either way, as you perform actions and garner experience, new and better items, crops, and zombies unlock.

Additionally, Zombie Farm also has a very interesting mutation mechanic. Players can actually purchase special mutations for their zombies that give them special bonuses such as increases to attack and defense. That said, purchasing a mutation doesn’t mean you automatically get it. Players must actually plant that zombie next to its corresponding crop (i.e. a Tomato Zombie) and harvest it before the plant for a chance at a mutated version. Furthermore, a few mutations, such as the Onion Mutation, act as incentives to make purchases.

On the negative side of things, the actual amount of real estate granted to the player fills up very, very quickly. Also, for whatever reason or another, the game doesn’t appear to support pinch zooming, which is an obnoxious issue once you have a bigger farm. Beyond this, the game is a very slow game to get going. Zombies take a while to grow, with the minimum length being four hours, so don’t expect to get a full taste for the app right away. Of course, since it’s free, that’s not too big a deal.

Overall, Zombie Farm is an interesting take on the whole farming genre. The game does come with a great deal of personality and style that oozes from the different types of zombies, and for a price tag of $0, it is a great download for fans of the slower paced farming-style game. The app is already doing pretty well, in any case, having reached the top 25 grossing apps in iTunes a couple of months ago.